US Championship: The one that got away

by Albert Silver
4/23/2018 – On the surface, the round was a quiet one, with eleven draws out of the twelve games in both events, but things were not so simple. More than a few games seemed likely to leave a body behind, but this was not counting the defenders desire to not lose. Sam Shankland had a promising position against Fabiano Caruana with an extra pawn, but never quite built it up enough to win. Both Women’s leaders Nazi Paikidze and Annie Wang were dead lost in their games, but lived to fight another day. | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Strategy University Vol. 4: The technique of realising the win Strategy University Vol. 4: The technique of realising the win

Great players of the past used to say – the most difficult thing in chess is to win won positions! Every player has such problems – those at the top of the tree and (especially) juniors. The correct technique consists of proper exchange methods and of the continuation of a correctly chosen plan; it is important not to change strategy after a small material gain. The DVD shows and explains instructive mistakes made when trying to make extra material or a positional advantage count and in addition it demonstrates the correct techniques as employed in classic games.


Open event

In the Open section, there was really only one game that grabbed attention and deservingly so: the one between Sam Shankland and Fabiano Caruana. This isn’t because the other games were not played out, as several were, but because it was the only game that seemed a candidate for a full point.

Though not necessarily by design, the game between Sam Shankland and Fabiano Caruana was the highlight of the Open Section in round five | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Shankland had certainly booked up for his encounter with Caruana, and the Queen’s Gambit Accepted was only a mild surprise. What left him taken aback was the novelty on move eight, a fianchetto with …g6 and …Bg7 that had never been seen before. Had Fabiano’s home laboratory created a powerful new line that would open up new avenues of exploration for the future? Not quite, since within a half dozen moves Black was struggling to organize himself with a pawn ready to fall. Granted there seemed no easy way to take it immediately as Sam later explained, but grabbing the pawn was still a matter of when and not if.

Sam Shankland ½-½ Fabiano Caruana

[Event "US-ch Men 2018"] [Site "Saint Louis"] [Date "2018.04.22"] [Round "5"] [White "Shankland, Samuel"] [Black "Caruana, Fabiano"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "D27"] [WhiteElo "2671"] [BlackElo "2804"] [Annotator "Albert Silver"] [PlyCount "87"] [EventDate "2018.??.??"] [EventType "tourn"] [EventCountry "USA"] [SourceTitle ""] [Source "ChessBase"] [SourceQuality "1"] 1. d4 d5 2. c4 dxc4 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. e3 e6 5. Bxc4 c5 6. O-O a6 7. a4 cxd4 8. exd4 g6 $146 {0.73/18 Let's put it this way: this over-the-board inspiration won't be winning any Best Novelty of the Year prizes.} ({Predecessor:} 8... Nc6 9. Nc3 Be7 10. Re1 O-O 11. h4 Nb4 12. Ne5 Nc6 13. Be3 Qc7 14. Bf4 Bd6 15. Rc1 Rd8 16. Bd3 Bd7 17. Bg5 Nxe5 18. dxe5 Bxe5 {1-0 (91) Jobava,B (2664)-Ivanchuk,V (2786) Dresden 2008}) 9. Nc3 Bg7 $1 10. d5 {This move emphasizes the issue with Black's fianchetto concept.} exd5 11. Re1+ Be6 12. Nxd5 $1 Nxd5 13. Bxd5 O-O $1 14. Bxe6 fxe6 {The e6 pawn is clearly a sitting duck, but as Shankland explained, he refrained from taking just yet because each line he analyzed showed some compensation for Black. He decided he would grab it if he could consolidate as well.} 15. Qe2 Qd5 16. Rd1 Qf5 17. Ng5 Nc6 18. Qxe6+ Kh8 19. Qxf5 Rxf5 20. Ne6 Be5 21. Be3 Re8 22. Nc5 Bf4 23. Bxf4 Rxf4 24. f3 Rb4 25. Rd2 Re7 26. Kf1 a5 27. Re1 Rxe1+ $1 28. Kxe1 $14 Kg8 29. b3 b6 30. Rd6 {[#] Threatening Na6 that would win.} Ne7 31. Nd7 Rxb3 32. Rxb6 Ra3 33. Nc5 Ra2 34. Re6 Nd5 35. Re2 Ra1+ 36. Kf2 Nc3 37. Re8+ Kf7 38. Ra8 Ra2+ 39. Kg3 g5 {Black has done a great job of holding his position together in spite of the pawn deficit and is now ready to steer the game towards a draw.} 40. Kg4 {0.07/19} Rxg2+ $11 41. Kf5 {Black must now prevent Ra7+.} Rxh2 {0.73/18} 42. Ra7+ Ke8 43. Rxa5 Rf2 44. Kxg5 1/2-1/2

Maurice Ashley, after the game, noted to Fabiano that he had been unable to find this concept in any of the databases, and was this the product of his home preparation? “If it is, I have serious problems”, Caruana quipped wryly. No, this had been a poor inspiration at the board which he was to soon regret and spend the next several hours defending against the consequences.

Still, to his credit, he never lost patience, and took his lumps stoically as he avoided losing control of the game, and eventually drew on move 44.

Though Alexander Onischuk did emerge from the middlegame against Ray Robson up a pawn, the rook and opposite-coloured bishops in the endgame ensured nothing would come of it | Photo: Austin Fuller

The other games also ended in draws but never seemed to break out of the equality zone. Well played, but not terribly enthralling. With no wins to speak of, the leaderboard remains unchanged.

"What do you mean you don't know the Bubblegum Gambit?" | Photo: Austin Fuller

Standings after five rounds


Games of round five


Women’s event

The headline of this article would most assuredly apply to the US Women’s Championship, since it might easily have been “Leaders lose in dramatic round!” This is no exaggeration either.

Nazi Paikidze was playing black against Irina Krush, who was dying to not only set their score straight, but also for the tournament standings as a win would mean an important step toward the podium. It was definitely a bad day at the office for Nazi, whose game suffered from poor opening play and not much better follow-up. Within less than 30 moves, she was dead lost with more than one road to victory available to Krush. Somehow, the final touch, that killer blow to put Black out of her misery never seemed to come. Paikidze was quick to shut that window of opportunity and in a difficult double-rook endgame, found an important defensive idea with 39…e5! That allowed her to hold.

Irina Krush vs Nazi Paikidze

[Event "US-ch Women 2018"] [Site "Saint Louis"] [Date "2018.04.22"] [Round "5"] [White "Krush, Irina"] [Black "Paikidze, Nazi"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "E48"] [WhiteElo "2422"] [BlackElo "2352"] [Annotator "Albert Silver"] [PlyCount "111"] [EventDate "2018.??.??"] [EventType "tourn"] [EventCountry "USA"] [SourceTitle ""] [Source "ChessBase"] [SourceQuality "1"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e3 O-O 5. Bd3 d5 6. cxd5 exd5 7. Nge2 b6 8. O-O Bb7 9. a3 Bd6 10. b4 a6 (10... c6 11. Rb1 a5 12. f3 axb4 13. axb4 Na6 14. b5 Nb4 15. bxc6 Bxc6 16. Bb5 Bb7 {1-0 (28) Navara,D (2725)-Movsesian,S (2673) Prague 2016}) 11. Qb3 $146 {-0.27/18} ({Predecessor:} 11. Rb1 Qe7 12. f3 c5 13. bxc5 bxc5 14. dxc5 Bxc5 15. Nd4 Nc6 16. Nf5 Qc7 17. Na4 Ba7 18. Qe1 Bc8 19. Kh1 Ne5 20. Qg3 Nh5 21. Qg5 Nxd3 22. Qxh5 Bxf5 23. Qxf5 Qc2 {0-1 (23) Peralta,F (2569)-Henderson de la Fuente,L (2365) Montcada 2017}) 11... Qe7 {0.40/17} 12. b5 {-0.25/20} a5 {0.77/18} 13. a4 {0.13/20} Rd8 14. h3 c5 15. bxc6 $1 Nxc6 16. Nb5 ({But not} 16. Qxb6 $2 Nb4 $19 {and White loses material.}) 16... Bb4 17. Bb2 Rac8 18. Bf5 Rb8 19. Rac1 g6 20. Bd3 Ne4 {0.70/18} 21. Bxe4 {0.22/20} Qxe4 $11 22. Ba3 {-0.19/21} Rbc8 23. Nf4 Ba6 24. Nd3 Bxa3 25. Qxa3 Bxb5 26. axb5 Na7 {0.77/21 [#]} 27. Ne5 $1 $36 {A powerful move that sets up a deadly invasion.} Nxb5 $2 {1.72/23 This really should have cost Black the game, but never underestimate the will to live.} ({Black should try} 27... Qh4 $1 $14 {0.70/21} ) 28. Qb2 (28. Qe7 $1 {was also a strong continuation.} Qf5 29. Nc6 $1 { and Black loses material. For example} Re8 30. g4 $1 Qf3 31. Ne5 $1 {and the castle of cards collapses.}) 28... Nd6 29. Qxb6 {1.31/22} ({The engine says that correct was} 29. Rxc8 $18 {1.86/21} Nxc8 30. g4 {but finding a move like g4 is less than obvious.}) 29... Ra8 {2.10/21 [#]} 30. Ra1 {0.94/23 Again, missing the killer blow.} (30. Qc7 $1 $18 {2.10/21} Qh4 31. Rc6 {attacking the defender of f7 and the rest is easy.}) 30... Nc4 31. Nxc4 dxc4 32. Rxa5 Rab8 33. Qc7 Rdc8 34. Qd7 c3 35. Ra7 Qe6 36. Qxe6 $1 fxe6 $14 37. Rc1 c2 38. Raa1 { Necessary to prevent ...Rb1} Rb5 39. Kf1 {[#]} e5 {This seemingly innocuous move is key to Black's defense. Opening the d-file is what allows Black's rooks to prevent White from ganging up on the c2 pawn.} 40. dxe5 Rxe5 41. Ke2 Rc7 42. f4 Rec5 {The position is equal.} 43. Ra3 h5 44. g4 Kf7 45. g5 R5c6 46. Rd3 Kg7 47. h4 Kf7 48. Kd2 Kg7 49. Rd4 Kf7 50. e4 Ke6 51. Rd8 Rc4 52. Ke3 Rc3+ 53. Rd3 R3c4 54. Rd8 Rc3+ 55. Rd3 R3c4 56. Rd8 1/2-1/2

It was a tough day at the office, but Nazi Paikidze's defensive skills held up in the end | Photo: Spectrum Studios

After the game, Irina was clearly more than little irate and explained that it was nothing against her rival, who had shown excellent resilience and resourcefulness, but the missed chance. Watching a game she had played well, and conducted with logic to a happy conclusion, only to see that happy ending botched by a series of imprecisions that cost her the win. There isn’t a player alive that cannot sympathize.

Realizing an Advantage

It’s a problem every player encounters when he stands better in a game: how to convert his plus into a full point? In this DVD the author answers this difficult question of chess strategy, considering both the psychological aspects of the realisation of an advantage and the technical methods.

Plenty of young fans came to the round on Sunday to admire and be inspired | Photo: Austin Fuller

Likewise, Annie Wang seemed to be ready to finally taste defeat in what has been a bit of a Cinderella campaign so far. She has been in trouble more than once but has somehow overcome these situations through sheer grit, and a dollop of luck. This was very much the tale of round five as well, as she was in a dead lost position, but due to poor time management on her opponent’s side, was able to keep the game alive and capitalize on the inevitable mistakes to save the game.

Standings after five rounds


Games of round five



Born in the US, he grew up in Paris, France, where he completed his Baccalaureat, and after college moved to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He had a peak rating of 2240 FIDE, and was a key designer of Chess Assistant 6. In 2010 he joined the ChessBase family as an editor and writer at ChessBase News. He is also a passionate photographer with work appearing in numerous publications, and the content creator of the YouTube channel, Chess & Tech.


Rules for reader comments


Not registered yet? Register